Watching as three actors play literal fools while presenting all 36 of William Shakespeare’s plays isn’t an average Saturday night, but The Midnight isn’t your average bar.
The Midnight, a bar in downtown Gainesville, presented Faux Tales’ production of “Shakespeare Abridged” at 9 p.m. on Saturday, condensing all of Shakespeare’s plays into about 97 minutes.
With the help of actors Marina Bolser, Emma Grimm, Jennifer Hutton and some silly props, everything from “Hamlet” to “Titus Andronicus” to “The Tempest” was portrayed in a modern, comedic fashion rife with sexual references and good, old-fashioned political satire.
The Midnight’s patio area presented a lovely outdoor setting for this production with a grunge backdrop. What was the stage? A wooden deck and a projection screen. Minimalist? Yes. Did it serve the play? Absolutely.
The beauty of Shakespeare is his plays are so universal, as one could perform them anywhere and draw in a crowd with a truthful delivery of the text of Shakespeare, who is often referred to as “the Bard.” The show drew in people of all ages — students, locals, millennials and parents. Audience members casually sipped large glasses and pints of beer, but the real intoxication came from the charisma of the players.
It should be noted, all three characters in “Shakespeare Abridged” are typically men, in order to bring viewers back to the Renaissance. However, this all-female production broke down gender barriers by showcasing that women are funny too. The actresses were focused, physically engaged and created a great suspension of disbelief in spite of the small, outdoor location of the bar.
The three women were constantly feeding off of each other’s energy, following their actor impulses and interacting with the audience, all of which enhanced the performance and radiated a beautiful energy.
Marina Bolser, a UF sophomore, started off as a narrator and progressed to play several different characters that showcased her range of ability. She spoke the lines clearly with a full voice and a nice, rounded diction that allowed the audience to understand every word, every syllable. After all, this is Shakespeare; the Bard did not mess with his syllables. Bolser's physicality was malleable, flexible and brilliant. She was fully engaged and present in her work, despite the challenge of playing several different characters.
Emma Grimm’s performance was equally engaging and funny. She portrayed Romeo in the “Romeo and Juliet” parody as a modern-day frat boy, Bieber haircut and all. Her specialty of voice and movement was quite impressive. Jennifer Hutton’s portrayal of Juliet as a modern-day California Valley girl was equally as excellent. Both actresses played opposite roles of each other, which added a great contrast and chemistry on stage. All three factors brought the hilarity of the parody to life.
Director Phil Young’s parodial vision of the script was carried out nicely. This production practically made fun of Shakespeare while educating novices and appealing to the millennial, technologically-savvy, Urban Dictionary generation.
For example, the women portrayed the iconic role of Julius Caesar as President Donald Trump in a press conference, used water guns to slay one another, rapped the plot of “Othello” and performed the abridged tale of “King Lear” as if they were the players and announcers at a football game.
From each note of sexual innuendo, to every selfie with an audience member, these women demonstrated a cool, nuanced take on “Shakespeare Abridged.”